So uh, yeah… hi. How are you all? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Seasons have changed and so have we; I’ve graduated from my undergraduate school and have been accepted into UF’s veterinary school, where I am currently taking classes. As such, I’ve (basically) moved over to the quaint little town of Gainesville, which is a hell of a lot different than Jacksonville. I get to learn a whole new town and along with it, where to avoid all the noisy undergrad students and rabble-rousers this town is so famous for. I’m exploring the creeks of Gainesville on my own now and have found some pretty interesting places and a ton of beautiful fossils. I’m in the process of getting a kayak within the next few months to expand my fossil hunting and adventuring. Oh, and I’m getting a dog, but that’s beside the point. Gainesville is a beautiful little town and completely different from what I’m used to in Jacksonville and South Florida. I really like how small it is and all the cute little shops and eateries. I’ve already learned to avoid Mid (that’s “middle-town”, basically downtown by UF’s main campus) like the plague and that parking is a bitch on campus. I’ve already looked into some of the strange occurrences in town too, ever trying to find things to do outside during the obnoxious summer heat. I plan on grabbing some friends and some courage and braving these locations eventually.
I had honestly thrown this project in the rubbish until Joe messaged me recently and said he wanted to give it another try. It seemed as if he got so hyper-focused on trying (and failing) to explore one place in central Florida that he lost sight of the main reason why he and I were doing Sand in your Shoes to begin with. And with only me participating, there was really no reason for me to continually write blogs once per week, especially if I didn’t have a car (at the time; now I do). So, here’s to another try. I’ll try (no promises; vet school comes first) to write a blog entry once per week again and I guess you’ll have to talk to Joe about when and how we’re doing podcasts, seeing as I’m not in Jacksonville any more (and you all get to enjoy my non-condensing microphone too).
Since I’m still new to the area, I figured I’d write down some of my advice to those who will eventually follow my suit. Here are my tips:
1) Avoid Mid at all costs! As I mentioned above, Mid is the place where the majority of students go to eat, drink, and play. It is ALWAYS crowded over there, both in terms of traffic and population. Don’t even think about going on the weekends either; if you can avoid this part of town altogether, it’s for your benefit (and safety). Plus, who wants to be around a bunch of drunk undergrads anyway?
2) Avoid Archer Road if you can. For me, that’s hard to do. I really like a lot of the chains on the Archer strip and since it’s right next to the vet school, I find myself there more often than I’d like. It’s not as hectic as Mid yet (then again, it’s still summer), but it’s still a good area to avoid. If you have to get from one side of town to the other, use the road that runs by Sweetwater Preserve (don’t ask me names, I don’t know names).
3) Game day? Don’t even go outside, or stay on the North side of town at least. The South side of town where the main campus of UF is is ALWAYS congested during game days. There was a HUGE party the other day for our baseball team and I was SO lucky that I got home from dinner in time to avoid that huge clusterfuck. UF is known for its drinking and partying and I’d rather not be in that kind of mess.
4) Leave EARLY for your classes. UF is hectic with traffic and the fight for a parking spot is real. It’s best to leave at least a half hour before your classes, if not more, if you want to make it on time and get a good parking spot. Otherwise you’re screwing yourself over. Oh, and park in the designated spots; I got a ticket for parking in an orange spot I thought was green (UF sorts its parking lots by color and you can only park in your designated color slot).
5) Rainesville is real. It’s summer, aka monsoon season, so be prepared to endure a ton of rain. The city is affectionately called Rainesville if it storms too much. Honestly, I like the rain because it’s been washing out a ton of fossils for me and my friend Maddie, who I currently hunt with. However, the creeks will get like five feet deep (as opposed to half a foot or less) during torrential downpours, and there’s no way in hell that I’m going through that mess. The rain also brings mosquitoes, so you best stock up on bug spray or some other form of bite prevention (I’m kind of wondering how pissed people would be if I went around the creeks installing bat houses everywhere… hmm…).
6) Food? I really haven’t tried any of the local eateries yet outside of Satchel’s. Satchel’s is good for pizza and salad, but they ONLY TAKE CASH. Just be warned. It’s a cute little eclectic scene. I really liked the marinara sauce, which has a bit of a spicy kick due to the red peppers they put in there. For UF students, there’s Krishna lunch too, which serves all vegetarian meals (I’ve yet to try them, but I hear they’re the bees’ knees).
7) Museums There are a couple – the Harn Museum of Art (I have ZERO interest in this) and the Florida Museum of Natural History. Both are free for UF students upon presentation of your student ID card. For general visitors, everything but the butterfly garden and the traveling exhibit is free for you. It’s worth spending a couple hours in there if you have the time.
8) Outside? If you want to brave the heat, there’s plenty of stuff to do. From High Springs and the Santa Fe River, to Paynes Prarie with their horses and bison, there’s not a shortage of things to do. Bring yourself a hammock too; they’re definitely welcomed on UF’s campus (they even have a hammock club). I’ve found the perfect trees to hang my hammock from in front of the bat house by Lake Alice for their daily sunset flight (dependent on the weather). I’m usually around the creeks in Gainesville at least once or twice per week looking for fossils in the 72-degree water. There is a botanical gardens by Lake Alice.
Am I missing anything? I’m still new to the area and would love to hear about the different things you like to do on campus and in town. Tell me about good food (I’m vegetarian) to try, good spots to hang out, everything. Yay.